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Life goes on

We are living in strange times. The world financial crisis continues its rollercoaster course and talk of recession and even depression abounds.

As I wrote this, it was still uncertain whether the US Congress would approve the $700bn bail-out fund and the UK Government was under increasing pressure to set up a fund to bail out banks holding mortgages on which homeowners are defaulting. Fingers are being pointed at City fat cats, bonus structures are under attack and the FSA is being criticised for allowing this all to happen.

Despite the turmoil, life goes on and when I talk to PFS members, it is still very much business as usual, apart from mortgages. Experienced advisers have seen volatility before and know how best to communicate with their clients.

Reviewing and rebasing investments in light of the changing economic outlook is part of the service for most. However, in this unprecedented period of uncertainty, some people may benefit from being told that no action is required and may feel reassured that someone who is closer to the issues than them is keeping an eye on where their money is invested.

I recommend to members that at the very least, they should remind clients that part of their professional service is being available to clients who just want someone to talk to.

I am delighted to see the huge increase in the number of chartered financial planners this year. There are now well over 1,500, representing a 50 per cent increase in just one year, with many more well on the way.

This demonstrates two things – hard evidence of a sector serious about its profession and wanting to progress without regulatory pressure and, second, confidence in the future, despite what is happening around us.

A proportion of the public will always need professional advice but this whole experience might well be a catalyst for the mass market to finally wake up to the reality that nothing is 100 per cent safe or certain in the world of finance and perhaps they should take greater interest in their personal affairs. This would be my message if I were still advising.

Back to the future. At the PFS, we are looking hard at what support and services members need. The big increase this year in numbers registering for diploma and advanced diploma exams has been responded to admirably by the Chartered Insurance Institute. Extra sittings are planned for 2009 and even- ing and weekend revision sessions are being piloted.

A significant benefit of being a PFS member is the discount you receive on CII manuals, learning materials and exam training.

The PFS events programme for 2009 is well under way, with more technical and exam-related events being planned. The Tech Talks are proving very popular and I am pleased that by filming these and delivering them via the web, we are able to reach all members.

Finally, I must mention this year’s annual conference, The Value of Advice, in Birmingham on November 10 and 11. It will be chaired by Justin Urquhart-Stewart supported by an amazing line-up of high profile speakers covering a range of subjects from TCF and how to prepare for an FSA visit to making the transition to a fee-based practice, the challenges of portfolio construction and much, much more. To access the programme and book, go to www.the pfs.org/pages/professionaldevelopment/ conference.aspx

Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

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